Wednesday, October 29, 2003


The other looming issue is the possible general strike, which seems to be mainly the result of two powerful men who hate eachother being unable to sit down and talk like normal adults. The truth is that both Netanyahu and Peretz are badly overreaching and each is about to harm themselves and the country far worse than they intended when they began their pissing match. Netanyahu is trying to completely uproot and rebuild Israel's entire economy and Peretz is trying to turn back the clock to 1965 and make the Histadrut the all-powerful kingmaker of Israeli politics. Neither of them has the best interests of the country at heart. Israel needs liberalization in the economic sphere, but slashing welfare benefits to single mothers is not going to help anyone get a job. Why is Netanyahu cutting payouts to the needy and doing nothing about the fact that Israel's entire phone system is the hands of a single, inefficient, wasteful, unprofitable monopoly? The answer is that he's too blinded by ideology to understand that Israel's problem is one of competition and choice in the consumer sphere, not an encroaching welfare state. As for Peretz, he doesn't grasp the fact that the planned economy has been tried the world over and found wanting. The key is not to try and reconstruct a failed system that nearly drove the country to bankruptcy in the early 80's, but to find a way to interlock social needs with a market economy, which just happens to be the only economic system that can produce the type of wealth needed to meet the very social needs he's championing. In short, two very large egos are slamming into eachother at full speed and, as per usual, the Israeli people are going to be the one's getting hurt by the fallout. Lets hope PM Sharon figures Netanyahu has damaged himself to his satisfaction and steps in to mediate.


The big story today is the municipal elections, which seem to have ended in a deadlock between Labor and Likud. Which is bad news for the Likud, which was hoping to cement its status as the new majority party, but not much better news for Labor, which failed to exploit the stagnated peace process and ailing economy to its benefit. I think the country was largely apathetic about these elections, since most major decisions affecting municipalities are decided at the national level anyways and most of the major incumbents were unbeatable. I think people are restless and dissatisfied with the current state of things, but none of alternative parties (Shinui, Amir Peretz's Am Echad) seem to be igniting much enthusiasm. No one really won anything yesterday, although Likud, with its failure to build on its big victory in last year's elections, has to be getting a bit nervous.


Apologies, gentle readers. I've been on a long vacation to England and around the country, so I haven't had any time to blog. Things should be returning to normal soon, although the start of classes will probably also be a major added distraction. Things are, of course, never boring in this country, so fear not, I shall be blogging.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Beilin-Abed Rabbo is a conscious effort – by a man who failed even to win a Knesset seat – to sidestep the elected government (if not actually subvert it), leveraging the resources of a pliable foreign government to do so. The Left may not be able to appreciate this distinction. But it should at least understand that the tactics it embraces now will boomerang once they are adopted by the Right.

The Jerusalem Post weighs in, correctly in my view. Read it all.

The unofficial draft peace agreement cobbled
together by Palestinians and Israeli left-wing
opposition members is "delusional," former prime
minister Ehud Barak said Monday...

"This is a fictive and slightly peculiar
agreement... that clearly harms the interests
of the State of Israel," said Barak.

Ehud Barak reminding me why, with all his numerous shortcomings, he's still the only sane man on the Israeli Left. This "agreement" (scare quotes very necessary) is worse than peculiar, its treasonous, and I do not use that word lightly. Its an attempt to wrest power away from a democratically elected government and the people of Israel who overwhelmingly voted for it. Words cannot express how utterly immoral the actions of these people are. They are attempting nothing less than a coup d'etat against the government of Israel. Only the fact that I know most of the people involved acted out of very misguided good intentions keeps me from using even stronger language. I despise Jewish and Israeli infighting but I'm afraid that this time its warranted. How dare Beilin and his crew usurp the legitimate powers of the Israeli government? How did they come by their extraordinary arrogance? How do they not grasp that this is hugely counterproductive and damaging to Israeli foreign policy? How can they treat the will of their fellow citizens so contemptuously? I hope Barak runs for the Labor leadership again and wins, he's the only hope the Israeli Left has after this ridiculous fiasco.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

"I don't understand why the prime minister was
angered by the meeting near the Dead Sea...
Perhaps Sharon is scared that a terrible secret
would come out: that there is someone to talk
and something to talk about, and a significant
degree of goodwill on the part of the second
party, and that this is a time in which calm,
even relative calm can be achieved... We,
unlike him, are not afraid."

Leftwing grotesque Yossi Sarid on the Israeli Left's goodbye to sanity, the "Swiss initiative", which essentially reiterates everything Arafat has turned down already while allowing him to exacerbate and exploit Israel's political divisions. There is something uniquely galling about the spectacle of a defeated party, completely without political support from the population of a democratic country, so brazenly conducting their own foreign policy without bothering to consult the electorate. This is exactly the kind of arrogant meddling that got into this mess in the first place. The whole bunch ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

There is a simply extraordinary article by Jonathan Rosenthal on European anti-Semitism at Policy Review. Impossible to summarize, read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

The Guns of October?

I'm sure that by now all of you have heard about Israel's strike against the Islamic Jihad base near Damascus, as well as the sudden outbreak of Hezbollah violence on the Northern Border, which most everyone seems to think is an act of retaliation. Obviously, its too early to reach serious conclusions about what's about to happen, and I think something is about to happen, but a few preliminery impressions might be in order.

Firstly, Syria is not going to let this go without a military response. Basher Assad is too weak and too new on the job to let himself be seen as a weak-willed beaurocrat being pushed around by the Israelis. His government, already seriously unstable, may very well collapse under the weight of his various competing ministers, who are basically running the country already. The internal schisms within Syria's antiquated one-party government (it is the closest thing to Stalinism still existing this side of North Korea) may not be able to survive a serious military confrontation with Israel.

Of course, Syria's been playing with fire for years, supporting Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and a host of other groups, as well as facilitating Iranian financial and military support for them. Assad has showed himself astonishingly oblivious to the inevitable consequences of this kind of reckless brinksmanship (as his father often did before him), and seems to fancy himself a leader in the great Arab struggle against Israel and the Imperialist West, an attitude which, needless to say, has been a recipie for disaster in this part of the world. He nearly got in hot water with the United States after the Iraq War for his various belligerancies, and we may be seeing the beginning of a comuppance which everyone has seen coming except, apparently, him.

Secondly, we are seeing a major change in strategy on the part of the Sharon government. Sharon has, thus far, refrained from attacking terrorist bases outside of the territories. Unfortunately, the confrontation with Syria and its support of terror against Israel was bound to happen. There was only so long Israel could allow Syria's double game to go one before taking action. Sharon appears to be pursuing the same strategy as he did with the Palestinians in the first two years of the intifada, a patient push-pull leading to a widening of the political maneuvering room of the IDF. In simple terms: the first time the IDF entered Palestinian cities, there was an enormous political outcry, the second time the response was much more muted, now the IDF operates freely in Palestinian territory largely without comment from the international community and, most importantly, with the tacit consent of the United States. Sharon may be banking on the same phenomenon here. The next time he attacks Palestinian terror bases in Syria - and there will be a next time - the criticism will likely be far more muted, as the world's attention span is, after all, a short one. Sharon is also sending a very serious signal to the Arab neighbors. He is sending them the same message he sent back in the '50s, when he led the commando Unit 101 under David Ben-Gurion's command: we will not be moved, if you threaten us, the price exacted will be prohibitively high. I think he is in earnest and I think the strikes will continue.

The big question is: will this lead to a regional war? The only way that could happen, taking the slovenly state of Syria's military into consideration, is if Egypt abrogates its peace treaty with Israel and enters in a war with us. I think this possibility, if remote, is not entirely unthinkable. Previously a taboo subject, it has already begun to be spoken of in serious terms by the Egyptian intelligensia, and if, as I think is likely, fundamentalist movements in Egypt rise exponentially in political power and influence over the next decade, the threat becomes more and more real. However, the real threat is a reckless retaliatory attack by Syria on Israel soil. This would probably lead to a full-scale confrontation with the IDF, one that Assad simply cannot win given the present state of his forces. This could lead to major upheavels both in Syria and Egypt with a possible fundamentalist takeover in the latter (an event which is, I believe, ultimately inevitable anyways). It may be that regional war is an unavoidable event given present circumstances, but, at the moment, the question is in the hands of Bashar Assad. Ironically enough, the man least likely to make the right decision. Fate is rarely kind in the Middle East, lets hope this is one of the exceptions.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

I want to say just a few words about what I saw after the racist Palastinian atrocity in Haifa. I saw a reporter holding a blasted-apart baby bottle while his hand shook with barely controlled rage. I saw restaurants and pubs deserted. I saw people glued to their TV sets. I saw furrowed brows and steely eyes. I saw lips pursed with anger and determination. My girlfriend looked at the deserted pub near her apartment and said: "I like that no one goes out when there's an attack. It lets me know we're all together, all feeling the same thing."

All of you out there who danced with joy in the streets or watched the pictures on television with measured glee and satisfaction, I have only this to say to you: You cannot win, because you have already lost. You have picked a fight with a people that has survived murderers and tyrants a thousand times worse than you could ever dream of being. You have picked a fight with a people that knows how to put its head down and keep moving, even in the midst of the hurricane. You have a picked a fight with a people that has fought a battle with history itself and won. You are defeated already and you don't even know it. You will only shatter yourself against the walls of your own making. We are here. We are staying. We have walked through the darkest abyss humanity has ever known and survived. Believe me, we will survive you. The only question is how much time it will take you to realize it. I hope, for your sake, that it does not take long.